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For Now

It’s been a while since I’ve written.  Well, that’s not true.  I’ve been writing virtually every day, but right before I get to the end of my post, without fail, right before I hit the publish button, I lose everything I’ve just written.  I mean it just vanishes into thin air.  This morning I even saved my draft halfway through, but still lost the entire last half before I got to the end.

Computer error?  User error?  Probably both.

Frustration?  You have no idea.

But I’m taking it as Jesus asking me nicely to give it a rest.  To take a break for a while.  To put my words aside for His words alone.

I’m not sure what that means in terms of time or direction.  Blogging for the past nearly six years on an almost daily basis has become part of who I am and what I do.  It has been both an outlet and an inner prompting from Jesus.  It has been a way to think of specific people as I sit down to write – a reminder to pray for them.  It has given me a chance to flesh out what I’ve been taking in each day – the lessons, the aha moments, the stark realizations and the sweet reminders from God’s word.  It has served as a way to look back through these past years and see what God has done in and around me, what He has grown and what He has weeded out.

I can’t imagine that I’m done. It has become so ingrained. Every time I sit down and begin typing, I feel like I am right there with you all, pouring out a full heart.  We will see.  Maybe God is shaking things up a bit and has something else in mind.

So I might write here again tomorrow or next week or a month from now or never. I honestly don’t know.  And that’s okay.

I only write this to let you in on my possible absence.

But, as always, you will be in my thoughts and prayers, my heart and mind.  That Jesus would continue to woo your hearts toward His and that you would know “how long, how wide, how high and how deep” His love is for you. (Ephesians 3:18)

With a grateful and hopeful heart and for now,

Jana

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The Thrill Of The Pursuit

Goosebumps.

Tummy tickle.

Adrenaline spike.

All of it.  That’s what happens to me when I experience something like I did yesterday.

The Thrill of the Pursuit.

If you know me, you probably think I’m talking about the rush I get walking into the treasure mecca of a thrift store.  And while that is absolutely true, yesterday’s symptoms were the result of something much more valuable than finding the perfect furniture re-do project.

MUCH more valuable.

Because the Pursuit is Someone else’s and the object is a precious human soul. And I had the rare privilege of witnessing and hearing about this thrilling Pursuit from the beautiful woman who is experiencing this sacred wooing.

I will not share a name or the specific details.  It is her blossoming love story to tell.  But let me say this: it is one of the most glorious things I’ve ever seen.

Jesus madly, deeply, truly loves this woman and is stopping at nothing to glean her attention. He is dropping love notes of circumstance and whispering sweet somethings into her opening ears. He is becoming more obvious in His advances toward her and she is becoming breathless with the anticipation of what will happen next in this budding romance.

She is on the precipice of beginning a relationship with the Lover of her soul.  Her eyes sparkle with the realization that she is being pursued. Her excitement and laughter mimic a girl who is falling fast for the Boy she thought was unattainable until now. Her joy is contagious.

The Thrill of the Pursuit has never been more real.  It’s like watching a story unfold, the details still a mystery, but the ending a happily ever after. Make that an eternal happily ever after.

I was not the matchmaker in this epic romance.  I only just met the future bride.  But I am thankful beyond words for the sweet privilege of being let in on the magic.

Jeremiah 29:13 – You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all of your heart.

Song of Songs 6:3 – I am my beloved’s and he is mine….

Genesis 3:8-9 – (God’s pursuit of Adam and Eve)

Acts 9 – (Paul’s encounter with Jesus)

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Wrapping

It’s that time of year when, amongst the unwrapping of gifts, we try wrapping our heads around the fact that God came to us as a baby.  Emmanuel.  “God with us”.

But can we take our minds even a little further on that journey of God making Himself small for us?  Because, before he was a newborn, he was a fetus, before that an embryo. He went through the precise development during pregnancy, a process which He himself had created.  He reduced Himself to splitting cells, to the incubation of the human womb. The God of the universe, the One who holds the world, encapsulated in a fist-sized organ.

God, who has everything at his disposal, gave all of that up when he put himself, as Jesus, into the care of an inexperienced teenage mother, putting his life in her hands. Entrusting himself to the human race, knowing that they would also be the ones who would ultimately reject and kill him.

Can you imagine?

What would inspire something so drastic, so seemingly ludicrous and wasteful?  Why would someone endure such a drastic reduction that would end in death?  What could possibly drive one to do the unthinkable for the unthankful?

Love.

Love in its most profound and pure form.  The type of sacrificial love that would risk everything to prove itself.  That would give everything even when it received nothing in return.

The kind of love that would invade our earth, our hearts, through the most vulnerable of ways. By becoming one of us from the very beginning of conception.

My mind is left boggled by the thought.  My heart and soul left addled.

And so as I wrap and unwrap gifts, I will continue to try and rewrap my head around the great love that came for me in its tiniest form.

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Do You Know?

Do you know in the stillness of the dark, lonely night

That I am your Friend, your Hope and your Light?

Does Your mind bend around the fact that I AM -

I was then, I am now and will be to the end?

Do you know that I love you ’til forever’s last day

Big as the ocean and fierce as its waves?

Does your heart know my heart, can your soul believe

My good plans for you started before you were conceived?

Do you know that I mean it each time I say

That I am your Truth, your Life and your Way?

Can you trust in my words when you can’t see my form?

Can you rest in my love, through the rage of the storm?

Just know.

You must know.

You are mine.

John 14:6 – I am the Way and the Truth and the Life…

Psalm 139:16 – All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Song of Solomon 6:3 – I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.

Jeremiah 31:3 – I have loved you with an everlasting love.

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When

I’m my most me when I see You for You

When Your plans become mine, I know what to do.

When the blaze in Your heart sets a fire in my gut

Doubt flees the room – no if’s, and’s or but’s.

When Your truth cuts a path through the maze of my mind

Peace, like its shadow, follows in kind.

When Your love consumes me and leaves me in tears,

Trust is conceived, giving birth to un-fears.

When Your grace is amazing and Your mercy sublime

I forgive all offenses as you’ve done for mine.

When I close my eyes and only see You

My eyes-shut-wide-open make my vision more true.

When the box I’ve constructed falls apart at the seams

It’s because You’re too big for my short-sighted dreams.

When I ponder on eternity waiting ahead

Today’s paper tigers turn to kittens instead.

I’m my most me when I see You for You

In all that I think, I say and I do….

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Psalm 139

Psalm 23

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No and Know

 

Peace and quiet.

We all long for it at some point in our crazy days and whirlwind weeks.  This time of year, it seems almost unattainable.  So much to do, so many people to see.

In our quest for rest, we still manage to cram our schedules to full and overflowing, wondering why the season came and went and we didn’t get to savor any of its essence.

We say we want to experience this elusive peace and quiet, but our bodies and minds continue at a frenetic pace that defies anything close to rest.

And, without a doubt, the most tragic part is that we deny ourselves the ability to sit and talk with the Guest of Honor of the season.  The true Giver and Gift.

We say and believe that we do all of these very good things to honor the day of His birth, to remember “the reason for the season”, but our good intentions can get in the way of what we really need and what He really desires for His birthday (and every day, for that matter).

Sometimes we have to be still and “no”.

Remember Jesus’ friends, Mary and Martha?  They were the sisters of Lazarus, whom Jesus had just resurrected from the dead.  These were women who saw Jesus for who He really was, experienced His power in miraculous ways, and understood His very personal love to their core.

They were thankful beyond words for their Friend and Lord who had given them back their brother.  So, it’s no surprise that they wanted to have Him as their Guest of Honor at a celebratory feast.  He would be the focus.  He would be the very reason for the whole event.

Love spurred the thought.  Grateful hearts inspired the generosity.

But when it came right down to the reality of the evening, these two sisters had very different reactions to His presence at the party.

Both loved Jesus.  Both wanted to show Him their love and had good intentions.

But only one of them decided to “be still and ‘no’ “.

Martha was fixing all the food, making all the preparations, doing all the cleaning, entertaining all the guests.  In essence, she was doing all the work.

When she complained to Jesus about it and asked that He get after Mary for not helping, she got a response that I’m sure she wasn’t expecting.

“Martha, Martha.  You are worried and upset about many things.  But few things are needed; or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Mary’s focus was on the Guest of Honor.  She wasn’t worried about all the details of the party.  She was there to honor Jesus in the way that would bless both of them.

Mary figured out what it was to be still and “no”.

No to frenzy.  No to unrealistic expectations.  No to busyness for busyness’ sake.  No to anything that would take her eyes off of Jesus.

This year, I’m experiencing this season like I never have before.  With this healing heart, I am learning how to be still and “no”.  I have narrowed down my schedule, I have simplified my must-do list.  I have turned my back on unnecessary obligations and my own unrealistic expectations of the season.

I am enjoying the presence and the face and the words of the Guest of Honor.

And I am experiencing that peace and quiet of my soul that before this year I always thought was out of my reach.

I hope that Martha heard Jesus’ loving words for what they were.  I hope that she heard them as an invitation to come and sit with Him and enjoy all that He was and all that He had to offer her.  I hope that at the next gathering she hosted, she kept it simple.

I hope she learned to be still and “no”.

Because when you “no”, you know….

Psalm 46:10 – Be still and know that I am God.

 

 

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Lose The Coat

Short word.

One syllable.

Powerfully destructive.

Rhymes with NAME.

Any guesses?

There is one word that fits this description that has the ability to maim, paralyze, isolate and even completely destroy a person.

I think it’s Satan’s favorite weapon against us.

Shame.

We wear it after we have or haven’t done something or something has or hasn’t been done to us.

It’s cloth is heavy and scratchy and smells funny, like an old wool blanket that’s been left out in the rain.

Its weight pulls our shoulders down and draws our heads and eyes toward the ground.

We know that it’s ugly, so we retreat from others so that they won’t see the matted, dirty fabric or smell the stink associated with it.

And somehow, we’ve been tricked into believing that this horrid coat is our fate, our spiritual punishment for our sins and failures, or the sins and failures of others that we wear.

In fact, we wrongly come to believe that it is somehow spiritually appropriate attire, the only outfit we deserve and should wear.  As if we are holier by wearing it quietly without complaint.

And so we huddle, cold and damp, exhausted by the weight, sickened by the smell, trapped in a prison we have let shame build around us.  Alone.  Afraid.  Sick and sad.

To all of us who know this wretched garment too well, Jesus says, “May I please take your coat?”

But before I remind us all of what He offers us in exchange, let’s think about the story of the Prodigal Son.

In a nut shell,  a Father has two sons – a low-maintenance, well-behaved son, and a wild, self-centered son.  The latter, seeking to scratch his immediate gratification itch, asks for his inheritance early, then runs off to squander it in crazy, short-sighted living.  He doesn’t realize his grave mistakes until he finds himself sharing food with the pigs, knee deep in mud and filth.

Shame overtakes him and he recognizes that he has been a fool.  That he didn’t realize what he’d had in the house of his Father, where every need was met.  Where relationship was enjoyed and life was full and rich.

Thinking that the coat of shame is his only option, he heads back home, determined that he is no longer worthy to be called a son, and so will become merely a servant to his Father.  He practices what he will say and gets his head around how he will wear shame’s weight for the rest of his days.

But the Father has been outside looking for his return every single day since he’s been gone.  Expectant.  Longing.  Loving.

So when He sees His son and his hunkered shoulders coming toward Him in the distance, He does something so seemingly wrong.  He lifts his garment and runs to His long lost son.  Two things that a Jewish man of honor in His time would never have done.  HE TOOK ON HIS SON’S SHAME!!!!  And He didn’t stop running until He got to that boy and threw His arms around Him in the most welcoming embrace.

As if that weren’t enough,  He then brought the boy home and threw him a huge party, with all the food and luxury and community that he had missed so desperately when he was sharing a pig’s habitat.

The coat of shame was removed and was replaced with beautiful, fresh, clean-smelling new clothes, with no trace of anything other left.

THIS is Jesus’ answer to shame.  THIS is the story of what Jesus did for us when He went to the cross.  He didn’t just wear our sin – he also wore our shame and it was nailed to that tree right along with Him.

It is never Jesus’ idea that we wear that awful piece of clothing.  Its only redeeming purpose is to put us on the road back home to our Father who longs to take it from us.  He has a new garment for us.  One that is light and lovely.  One that fits us perfectly.  One that exudes the sweet smell of grace without strings.

Shake that ragged, smelly, heavy thing off.  It doesn’t suit you.  Hand it to your Father.  He designed something beautiful with your name all over it. Something that feels like you’re wearing nothing at all.

Aaaaaaahhhhhh….

Luke 15:11-32

2 Samuel 9:1-11

Ezekiel 36:26

Isaiah 43:18

 

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Thankful

thanksgiving

Thanksgiving feels different this year.

In the middle of the outward “sameness” of sights and smells and tastes and sounds, this Thanksgiving is profoundly different.

The normal list of things I’m thankful for – family, friends, circumstances – has shifted, as if I’m putting on x-ray vision goggles that look beneath the surface of the obvious.

As my eyes adjust to the new view, the things that were always there, but blurry, are coming into focus.

Like a child who has just put on their first pair of much needed glasses, I find my heart sitting with a mouth-half-open smile, contentedly just taking it all in.

Today my list of thankfulness would look something like this:

- I am thankful for dreams that came disguised as nightmares.

- I am thankful for a released grip that led to open hands to receive the surprises that God had in mind all along.

- I am thankful for the inspiration of friends who have or are facing disease with such faith, grace and grit.

- I am thankful for the strangers who have become friends and the friends who have become family.

- I am thankful for the uncertainties that grew faith and the difficulties that increased strength.

- I am thankful for the spiritual surgery that led to healing.

- I am thankful that God never leaves things undone.

- I am thankful for modern day miracles, so subtle that I have to look for them with eyes wide open.

(And, of course, family, friends and circumstances. :-) )

The list could go on for days.  Because as vision is corrected, perspective grows more eternal, with no bounds, no ceiling on its potential.

Thanksgiving feels different this year.

And for that, I am so very thankful. :-)

Psalm 95:1-7

1 Chronicles 16:34

Psalm 100:4

1 Timothy 4:4-5

 

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Obviously

Here’s a thought…

God knows more than we do.

It’s so obvious that to write it out seems laughable.

Here’s another thought….

God loves more than we do.

Again, thank you, Mrs. Obvious.

The thoughts just keep coming….

God has a better plan than we do.

Yep.

God is always present.

God is always working.

God will never abandon us.

Or how about….

God knows me inside and out.

These aren’t new thoughts to most of us.  Many of us grew up knowing these things.  Some of us even studied these concepts.  Even those that don’t proclaim faith are familiar with these beliefs.

But do we really believe with more than the portion of our brains that have memorized the verses that beautifully depict these truths?

We are quick to quote, but have these things become so much a part of us that they trigger an automatic response of trust?

I can only speak for myself, but the answer, to be painfully honest, is no.

Because my initial reactions are too often fear based.

As if all the things I’ve known and experienced all my life suddenly evaporate into thin air when things don’t go as I’d thought they would.

As if God suddenly disappeared, or fell asleep or missed something in my life.

As if He stopped loving me, lost His plan or His marbles.

As if the madness of the world  was not still in the pa;m of His very capable hands, very omnipotent hands.

I’m here to say that our thinking can change.  Our responses to circumstances and difficulties and surprises can twist and turn into something that looks a lot more like childlike trust.  We CAN begin to truly believe from our souls out that God is and does all that He says.

If you knew how deeply imbedded fear has been in my life in the past, you would not believe the miracle that has happened as a result of seeing these truths play out, as if for the first time.

The past ninety days of introspection and deep healing with Jesus have been absolutely life changing.  It has changed my outlook, my perspective, my mind, heart, soul and even body.

The continual pit in my stomach has vanished and been replaced with the deepest sense of peace in my heart.

It’s possible, friend.  It’s available.  It’s a miracle that any of us can experience if we’re willing to wrestle with the obstacles in ourselves that are standing in the way. If we’re willing to let go of the fear and everything associated with it and grab hold of something that stands true not only for all time but for all eternity.

Let go and lean in.

The obvious of the mind becomes obvious to the heart and obvious in our lives.

And, obviously, that is a good thing. :-)

 

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More Than Words

 

 

 

 

 

Most of us are at least familiar with it.

Many of us have memorized it.

Movies quote it.

Songs have been made from it.

It’s famous.

But like the National Anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance, we rarely look at it for what it really is, what it really means, and automatically go through the motions of parroting the words.

The Lord’s Prayer.

Some people look at it as magical.  They turn to it in times of distress or grief.  They repeat it verbatim, as if it were the only prayer that God can really hear.

But the real reason that Jesus shared that prayer with us was as an example.  He wasn’t asking for robotic copycats that would simply “repeat after Me”.  He wanted us to take away the meat and meaning of the prayer, something that would not just require our minds that memorize, but our hearts that love Him.

In context, Matthew 6 is talking about humility on either side of the Lord’s Prayer that begins in verse 7.  When we pray, in our own words or when quoting the Lord’s Prayer, we are to remember who He is and who we are in contrast.  Humility to the core.  And because Jesus also asked us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), this humility and recognition should flow through our veins with every breath we take.

It removes our sense of entitlement and replaces it with trust and gratitude.  We remember how amazing grace really is and how prayer is less about our words and more about our hearts.  It reminds us of our relationship with and to Him and corrects our thinking about our relationships with others.  We recognize that our very life depends on His overwhelming generosity.

He taught us that true prayer changes us, not Him.

So I broke down the version of the Lord’s Prayer that we are most accustomed to – the King James Version.  It changed my perspective on not only this prayer, but every prayer of my heart. Sincerity. Simplicity.  Humility.  Reality.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven (I know we are in relationship)

Hallowed be thy name. (I know Your name and reputation are sacred and worthy of honor)

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done (I know You are King and have a plan)

On earth as it is in heaven. (I know You can work in my life today like You continually do in heaven)

Give us this day our daily bread (I know You will meet my needs for this day)

And forgive us our trespasses (I know I have failed you)

As we forgive those who trespass against us. (I know I need to forgive others, also)

And lead us not into temptation, (I know I am weak)

But deliver us from evil.(I know you are strong)

For thine is (I know it’s all yours)

The kingdom (The authority)

And the power (The ability)

And the glory (The credit)

Forever. (Now and all the way past eternity)

Amen. (Truly.  Period)

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